Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN read out Monday what he said were text messages sent by a Russian soldier to his mother moments before he was killed, in which he admitted both his own fear and that civilians were being targeted in Ukraine.
Sergiy Kyslytsya presented the information as the 193 members of the UN General Assembly held an extraordinary debate on a resolution condemning Moscow’s invasion last week of Ukraine.
Kyslytsya said the text conversation was gleaned from the smartphone of a slain Russian serviceman and showed the assembly a page he said was a screenshot of the messages, which he then read out.
The conversation began with the soldier’s mother asking her son where he was, why it had been so long since he had been in contact, and if he was still in training exercises.
“Papa is asking if I can send you a parcel,” the mother wrote, according to a United Nations English translation of the Russian messages read out by Kyslytsya.
The son responded by clarifying that he is “no longer in Crimea” but already in Ukraine, fighting a war against civilians he was told would welcome Russian forces.
“Mama, I’m in Ukraine,” the soldier wrote. “There is a real war raging here. I’m afraid. We are bombing all of the cities together, even targeting civilians.”
“We were told they would welcome us and they are falling under our armored vehicles, throwing themselves under the wheels and not allowing us to pass,” he wrote.
“They call us fascists. Mama, this is so hard,” the soldier continued.
Several moments later he was killed, Kyslytsya said.
“Just visualize the magnitude of the tragedy,” he said.
More than 100 countries were expected to speak as the global body decides if it will support the resolution demanding that Russia immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine. The resolution is non-binding, but will serve as a marker of how isolated Russia is.
A vote is expected Tuesday. Its authors hope they may exceed 100 votes in favor, including Israel — though countries including Syria, China, Cuba and India are expected to either support Russia or abstain.
Also Monday, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he plans to swiftly open an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement that the investigation will look at alleged crimes committed before the Russian invasion but also any crime committed by either side since Russia attacked last week.
Rights groups have called on Russia to stop using cluster munitions in Ukraine, saying the indiscriminate weapons have caused fatalities that could constitute war crimes.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said her office has confirmed that 102 civilians, including seven children, have been killed in the Russian invasion and 304 others wounded in Ukraine since Thursday. She cautioned that the tally was likely a vast undercount.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Since then, Russia has become an international pariah and faces a barrage of sanctions.